My most recent article, for Black Press‘ InMotion, about a guy on Vancouver Island who actually got a pretty cool hand-me-down car from his father — unlike the 1984 Nissan Micra with bald tires and a broken engine mount that I learned to drive on (no offense, dad):
David Rogers had no idea in 1951, as a one-year-old, that when his father’s friend Jimmy Pattison sold their family a brand new 1952 Pontiac sedan, he would one day be taking that same car to shows all over the country.
“He drove that car until 1966 when my mother cracked it up. He gave me the ’52 – I had just turned 16 – and he bought a 1965 Pontiac,” Rogers recalls.
Growing up in Vancouver, his father ran an insurance business in the 1950s and ‘60s and frequently worked with Pattison when he was still primarily in the car dealership business.
“Those days, Jimmy Pattison had a dirt lot on Broadway and Cambie,” he reminisces.
Today Rogers owns eight vintage cars, ranging from a suped-up 1971 Chevy Nova muscle car to a 1914 Cartercar – a classic American vehicle resembling a motorized carriage, first manufactured in 1905 – acquired from the Harrah’s museum in Las Vegas. But he wasn’t always into cars – until he attended one particular event.
“(It was) Easter in 1960. I was standing at a street corner at 18th and Cambie watching the vintage car parade. The first (car) drove down through the tram tracks down Cambie Street.”
His passion soon grew into a career as Rogers became an apprentice for a mechanic in Vancouver specializing in repairing ambulances that were made by Cadillac at the time. He enjoyed the work, but says being around solvents and grease all the time took a toll on his health. After his father passed away, Rogers decided on a change in job and scenery and made for Sidney, where he still lives today.
With the ’52 and ’65 in his possession, Rogers began to grow his collection. First was purchasing the frame for the Nova and piecing that together into a 350-horsepower monster with a small-block Chevy V8, which later would become his wife’s car (thanks to Rogers’ influence, almost the entire family is into cars, including one of his daughters who drives an 1983 Monte Carlo SS).
Another integral part of his stable of vehicles is a 1926 Oakland, made by the Oakland Motor Car Company that would later create the Pontiac brand. He had memories of sitting in one belonging to a mechanic at the garage on the Mainland where his father had his car serviced. Rogers found one for sale that was close to home, and his heart.
“So I phoned this guy (and) it turned out to be the mechanic’s son – it was the same car in 1960 that I sat in and went ‘vroom vroom’ as the mechanic fixed the clutch (on my father’s) ’65 Pontiac.”
He (had) lost his parking place in Vancouver (and needed to get rid of it), and two weeks later I owned the Oakland.”
Rogers and his wife perform all the restoration work on the cars, except transmission work and paint, at their Sidney home that has been outfitted with all the bells and whistles of a modern-day shop. Now working as an emergency response advisor for BC HAZMAT Management Ltd., the 61-year-old even modified his work vehicles – two red Chevy one-ton pickup truck s – although they’ve mostly just been given the custom vinyl sticker treatment.
All but two of their vehicles, which in addition to the ones mentioned include another 1952 Pontiac Sedan (parts car), a 1977 Corvette and 2012 Harley-Davidson Trike Motorcycle, have vintage plates. When not torn apart for restoration, all the cars (and bike) get driven to local shows, as well as ones not so local, like when the Oakland made a trip to Detroit for the General Motors 100th anniversary in 2008.
Even with so many toys to choose from, the 1952 that Rogers sat in as a toddler remains his favourite.
“I passed my license on it. It needs a frame off (complete tear-down) now.”